My inbox is daunting. I get hundreds of e-mails a day. Most of them are pitches for a story or a press release about a future event, but 90% of those press releases get an instant “delete” before I even open them because they are junk. In order to send a press release that will be read and even better, acted upon – you need to get inside the mind of a TV reporter/producer. (It’s a scarey place!)
Most of us are ADD. We have the attention span of a 2-year-old. Think shiny. Think one-word. Think attention-grabbing. But first – let’s talk about what you should NOT do.
1) Use the words “Media Release”, “Press Advisory” or anything of that nature in the subject line.
2) Use an email with “press release” in the address.
3) Use “press release” or “media advisory” ANYWHERE in the e-mail.
1) Write an attention-grabbing headline/subject line.
Political groups have some of the best press releases out there. I ALWAYS get suckered into opening them up. Here’s an example of an attention grabbing subject line:
What works about this is that they used my name – so it seems like the e-mail is just for me and then they used an attention-grabbing headline. Make me care about the e-mail enough to open it.
2) Tell me a good story.
Okay – once I open the e-mail, I need to see a story pitch that I can put on TV. Don’t tell me about an “event”. Tell me about the story I’m going to get out of that event. So if you’re pitching a fundraiser, don’t tell me about the dinner and auction. I want to hear why I (and our viewers) should care about the fundraiser. Tell me who’s going to benefit from that money. Sending a kid to college? Tell me about the 16-year-old who is homeless but still manages to go to school everyday and get straight A’s. Funding breast cancer research? Show me the working mother with 3 kids who struggles through chemo but still puts a smile on her face every night when she puts her children to bed. Make sure these people are willing and able to go on TV and speak to reporters. Find the story – and then write your press release.
And trust me – everyone has a story. I was recently talking with JP Hervis, a former news reporter who founded his own PR firm, Insider Media Management. He said he got an art gallery as a client and found out the owner had a heartbreaking story of how she started painting. Normally, no local TV station would cover an art gallery opening, but local stations covered this one because of Hervis’ press release which focused on her story.
3) Keep it simple and short.
Get to the point quickly. Remember – we have very short attention spans. Please, no releases longer than one page. If you can’t say it in less than a page – you need someone to help you edit.
4) Make the reporter’s job easy.
Provide any statistics or numbers to back up your claims or story. Also – make sure you have everyone ready to go once you send out your release. If a reporter calls that day and wants to talk to someone – that person needs to be available or you may lose your shot.
5) Proofread your press release!
This is my biggest pet peeve. There’s nothing that hurts your credibility more than having misspellings or grammatical errors in your release.
Writing a press release is easy. Writing a press release that will get a reporter’s attention is not. But remember – focus your release on the one thing that is surprising to you and it will likely surprise a reporter too.